The tides have turned in Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry


The tides have turned in Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry

For years, the Blackhawks found themselves chasing the Red Wings in an Original Six rivalry that was one-sided for roughly a decade.

Now, the tides have turned.

The Blackhawks came at the Red Wings in waves during Sunday's 4-1 win over Detroit, their second victory against their former division rival in five days.

Patrick Kane wasted no time in helping the Blackhawks jump out to a lead, ripping one past Red Wings netminder Petr Mrazek just 21 seconds into the opening frame.

"They have a great team. Great offensive team," Mrazek said. "We were trying to get ready for that, and the first 15 seconds they had the 2-on-1 that they scored and that for sure helped them in the game."

Less than six minutes later, Duncan Keith slapped home a power play goal to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead, which prompted Detroit head coach Jim Blashill to replace Mrazek in goal for Jimmy Howard.

It was a gutsy move that certainly appeared to work when Gustav Nyquist responded shortly after with a goal of his own, putting a halt to Chicago's momentum.

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In the second period, it was all Red Wings, who peppered the Blackhawks with 13 shots on goals while allowing only three. But they failed to capitalize on the opportunity, and the defending Stanley Cup champions made them pay.

Artem Anisimov and Jonathan Toews scored two goals in a span of 1:08 midway through the third period to put the game out of reach for the Red Wings, who slipped to the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference after Pittsburgh's win on Sunday.

"I thought the guys showed up," Mike Green said. "I thought that we played well. They're a good team. You slip for a second and they'll put it in the back of the net."

The Blackhawks scored two more power play goals on Sunday, equaling the amount they scored in Wednesday's contest against Detroit.

And that may have been the difference.

"They're very good on the power play," Blashill said of the Blackhawks, whose power play now ranks No. 1 with a 24.1 percentage rate. "That's one area that they've, we've struggled against it obviously. I think that's probably what's separated them through the season. If you look at, I saw 5-on-5 goals ... goals for and goals against were virtually no different between our teams, but their power play has been really good.

"Corey Crawford has been real great in net and they've got real quick-strike offense and if you make mistakes, they can certainly make you pay."

[MORE: Corey Crawford, Blackhawks shut down Red Wings]

The Blackhawks, by far, lead the league in wins (36) when scoring the game's first goal and continued their run when leading after two periods since the start of the 2014-15 season, including playoffs, to 65-0-2.

It's been a key ingredient to the Blackhawks' success over the last seven years, which has resulted in three Stanley Cups and five Conference Final appearances, a familiar dominance last seen by the Red Wings.

The Red Wings haven't missed the postseason in 24 years, the longest active streak by any of the four major North American pro sports leagues. They're also the last team in NHL history to repeat as champions, accomplished in 1997 and 1998. 

The Blackhawks are seeking to become the first team to do that in the salary cap era, and once aspired to be in Detroit's shoes.

Is it the other way around now?

Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterman said "we don't look at it that way," but Tomas Tatar admitted it's hard not to want to emulate the Blackhawks.

"To be honest, I love playing against them," Tatar said. "They play nice hockey. I think that's how every team should be playing. They're really offensive, they're having fun out there, they're just fun to play against. Their (defensemen) are really joining the rushes, and that's what makes them really good."

[RELATED: Five Things: Blackhawks' Patrick Kane hits milestone]

Although the rivalry took a bit of a turn in 2013-14 when the realignment forced the Red Wings to change conferences, it's still alive and well, and should be for a while.

Dylan Larkin was dubbed "The Next Jonathan Toews" in February's edition of The Hockey News magazine.

Andreas Athanasiou scored a highlight-reel goal over the weekend against Dallas, and nearly did the same in the first period of Sunday's game when he maneuvered his way past Brent Seabrook and Erik Gustafsson.

Tatar is young enough where his best days are still ahead of him. Same with Nyquist. So there's no reason to believe that the Red Wings will fall off the grid any time soon.

But for now, it's the Blackhawks' time to enjoy their spotlight.

"They have really good structure right now," Tatar said. "They have a few players that have been the franchise players for them and they've just been playing really good. And the last six years, they've been really successful."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start


Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."